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The Nanavati Shah Commission

The Nanavati Shah Commission investigating the burning of the Sabarmati Express that triggered the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat has cleared the state’s chief minister Narendra Modi (who was also chief minister then) of any wrong-doing.Political opponents of the BJP, however, were quick to deride the probe’s conclusions and also imputed motives to the timing of its release.The growing frequency of terror attacks has given an opening to the BJP to argue that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government is soft on terror. BJP has made terror and inflation key electoral issues, ahead of elections to the key states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.The post-Godhra riots had tainted the otherwise impressive administrative record of Modi and was considered an impediment in his playing a more prominent role at the national level. The Nanavati panel’s report, tabled in the Gujarat assembly, claims that the attack on the train carrying Hindu devotees on 27 February 2002, in which 58 people were killed, was a “preplanned conspiracy”. The first part of the report has virtually cleared Modi, saying there was no evidence to incriminate him or any member of his cabinet in the ensuing communal violence when Hindu mobs attacked pockets of Muslims in Gujarat.An estimated 1,169 Muslims died in the riots.The commission is yet to submit the second part of its report.
The findings contradict the conclusions of another panel headed by justice (retd) U.C.
Banerjee, set up by railway minister Lalu Prasad, which stated that the fire was accidental and that there was no evidence to suggest that it was planned.“People will not believe that Modi is innocent. He is a communal virus centre and has been disallowed to travel abroad. Had he been punished for his crime, no youth would have turned terrorist today,” Prasad said.
According to the report tabled in the assembly, two persons, Raza Kurjur and Salim Panwala, had executed a conspiracy to kill the Hindu pilgrims who were returning from Ayodhya, where some pro-BJP mobs had razed a 16-century mosque in December 1992, that was hatched at the house of Moulvi Umerji. Congress members in Gujarat assembly staged a walk out alleging foul play.

India & South Korea reach an agreement on free trade

South Korea and India have reached an agreement on a free trade deal after talks lasting two and a half years, the trade ministry said.The two countries resolved “all outstanding issues” in negotiations here on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement , the equivalent of a free trade agreement, the ministry said.The two countries plan to sign the accord by the end of this year if their parliaments approve it. “Both sides expect that after completion of all domestic formalities, the agreement will enter into force in the first half of next year on a mutually agreed date,” the statement said

Axon : Infosys v/s HCL Tech

In the battle for Axon, shareholders of Axon have benefited the most.

The Nuclear Deal ....step by step Snapshot

A step by step guide to India's Nuclear journey so far.
The Indo-US Nuclear Deal means three things. (One) It is a changing of a very powerful set of global rules to accommodate India; it is a recognition of India’s responsibility and its rising capabilities; and the importance of the US-India partnership. Two, it gives India access to something it has never had for the last 30-odd years, and that is nuclear energy cooperation with a whole range of countries, which is going to be vital if India is going to meet its developmental goals. The third is more symbolic, in that it means the end of the nuclear apartheid regime to use (former external affairs minister) Jaswant Singh’s famous phrase, that kept India out of the group of elite countries. It is truly a transformative event and when historians write about in the coming decades, this will have been one of those turning points in India’s march towards becoming a great power.
Does this deal make India the world's sixth nuclear power?
Well, it does. Not in a legal sense of course. Not de jure, but de facto. Because India has the one privilege that the P-5 states have, that it can access civilian nuclear cooperation from the international community without any constraints on its civilian nuclear programme.
It can continue to build weapons, it can continue to maintain its weapons, it can expand its inventory, if it so chooses. And this is a privilege that is really accorded only to five countries, and India is the sixth country with this privilege.
Does this deal mark the de-hyphenation of India and Pakistan?
Probably yes. If there is a hyphenation, it is actually the opposite of what was originally meant. People look at India as a success story, people look at Pakistan as a state at risk. So if it’s a hyphenation, it is a hyphenation of contrast, it’s not a hyphenation of compatibility.

Kolkata's tallest Tower

Kolkata seems to be raising the bar continuously when it comes to building skyscrapers.
Who would have thought that the city’s tallest building would finally come up on a palace belonging to the erstwhile royal family of Darbhanga and that too on Chowringhee Road in downtown Kolkata? Well, that was until a consortium of realty developers led by Diamond Group divulged its plans to build a 250-metre tall plush commercial structure on Chowringhee Road, next to Tata Centre.The proposed tower, tall enough to accommodate 83 storeys, would house only 54 floors.
For years the tallest building in Kolkata was the 20-storyed commercial complex Chatterjee International Centre near Chowringhee Road-Park Street crossing. Everest House was next! Also on Chowringhe Road, but further South. Then came the much-hyped 35-storyed South City on Prince Anwar Shah Road. South City Mall has been thrown open a couple of months ago but the residential complex within South City is still getting finishing touches). And before South City welcomes its residents, at least three new projects have been announced, each claiming to be the tallest at the time of disclosure.
Life Insurance Corporation, which had coughed up Rs 276 crore last year to purchase five acres opposite Science City on Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, unveiled plans to develop a 50-storey commercial property there a few months ago. It will have 15 floors more than the South City residential towers, which was the tallest in the city then.Around the same time, three other projects were announced — Cesma International Centre (50 storeys), Shristi International Hotel Tower (45 storeys) at Rajarhat and Biswa Banga Shikhar (42 storey) on EM Bypass.
The proposed 54-storey commercial tower on Darbhanga Royal Palace will literally tower over the Chowringhee skyline. It will house 10 levels of car parking at the base and a helipad, 35-36 floors of office space, a food court and convention centre spanning three levels. That's not all. For the first time in the city or possibly in the country, a property of this magnitude will have a floor-to-ceiling height of 4.2m, a grand 42-ft high entrance lobby, a sky garden on the 29th level and three levels of viewing galleries on top of everything, disclosed Amarnath Shroff, director of Diamond Group.
The property has been designed by a famed structural design expert from Ottawa — Joseph P Colaco, with supported from a local structural engineer Sanjeev Parekh. All necessary structural precautions have been taken, including the seismic load factor, assured the developer.

Pune tops-‘Tier II and III Cities New Employment Centre’

Pune has emerged as the leading employment provider destination in various tier-II cities in the country, followed by Lucknow and Puducherry, points out an Assocham study on job opportunities.Pune, with a share of 16.5 per cent, is the number one job provider while Lucknow and Puducherry accounted for 12.30 per cent and 10.50 per cent respectively, out of the total jobs tracked by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) in the last quarter of fiscal 2007-08. Titled as ‘Tier II and III Cities New Employment Centre’, the study highlights Pune’s top-five employment generating sectors comprising IT, ITeS, banking, education, and automobile. The top five sectors in Lucknow which have created vast employment opportunities in the period under reference include education, banking, FMCG, insurance, and ITeS.In case of Puducherry, these are aviation, banking, energy, FMCG and hospitality, says the study.
Among tier-III cities, Ranchi has emerged as the top employment provider with a share of 13.80 per cent. Manglore and Mysore were ranked second and third, constituting 11.60 per cent and 11.08 per cent of the total vacancies offered, the study, released by ASSOCHAM secretary general D S Rawant says. In Ranchi, the predominant sectors creating maximum job prospects were energy, construction, metals, electronics and telecom. Top five sectors in Mangalore were identified as engineering, energy, banking, insurance and FMCG.In Mysore, job prospects were bright in automobiles, insurance, pharma, manufacturing and education segments.
Tier-II cities, including Pune, Jaipur and Surat, recorded maximum vacancies in insurance companies, banks, mutual funds and brokerage houses. Among tier-III cities Mangalore, Pondicherry and Aurangabad provided highest openings in finance-related jobs, the study says.
In both, tier-II and III cities, the financial services sector provided maximum employment opportunities to aspirants. It contributed 18.5 per cent and 21.5 per cent in tier-II and III cities respectively in terms of job openings.
The second largest share of vacancies posted in developing cities was of the IT sector as it provided jobs to a large number of aspirants, contributing a share of 17 per cent in tier-II cities and 17.5 per cent in tier-III cities of the total sample. IT and IT-enabled services provided maximum jobs in Pune, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Surat, according to the study. The low-cost cities of Mangalore, Jalandhar and Aurangabad were the most sought after by IT firms among tier- III cities.
In tier-II cities, the education sector occupied the third rank. It offered vacancies for teachers and professors in schools and universities contributing a share of 6.41 per cent in total job openings. Prominent tier-II cities that provided maximum employment opportunities in the education sector included Pune, Lucknow and Jaipur.

Sarva Dharm Sambhav Manch

Wonder why this so called 'Sarva Dharm Sambhav Manch' is wasting money releasing advertisements in all major newspapers across the country congratulating Amar Singh,Mulayam,etc.Can't this money be put to better use like helping the flood victims in Bihar,Orissa or those injured / killed in the bomb blasts in Delhi or those affected by the violence in Orissa?

Defence SMEs plan cluster in Pune

A Consortium led by the Defence Equipment Manufacturers Association (DEMA) is planning to set up a defence cluster in Pune, targeting a slice of the lucrative defence sector orders under the offset clause. DEMA, which comprises over 45 SMEs based in and around Pune, has set up a separate company, DEMA Mechatronics Technologies, with a share capital of Rs 75 lakh. This 15-member company will manufacture not just under the offset clause, but also products its members have developed indigenously. Under defence ministry norms, overseas contracts worth over Rs 300 crore require local sourcing that brings the 30% offset orders for domestic players. With defence contracts worth Rs 1.50 lakh crore in the offing, it provides a business opportunity of Rs 44,000 crore to Rs 45,000 crore for the domestic players in the next five years. However, companies have to scale up quickly to meet the defence ministry norms. Hence, DEMA Mechatronics Technologies will prefer land close to defence establishments. The plot under consideration is the Talegaon Ordnance Depot because it is close to the industrial areas of Talegaon, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Chakan. DEMA president DS Kamlapurkar said that they can produce two items developed by member companies. These products, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and fuses used in armament, were first announced two years ago. “The UAV is a battery-operated vehicle, with a range of 10 km. It can operate at an altitude of 1.5 km, reach a speed of 70 km/hour and carry a payload of 10 kg. With these specifications, an imported UAV would cost around Rs 1.5 crore. We can manufacture the same for Rs 45 lakh,” Mr Kamlapurkar said. A prototype of the product is ready and will be commissioned by December. Its design has been validated. Five DEMA members are involved in the project. Moreover, none of the more expensive imported UAVs can guarantee operations at 10,000 feet, which the newly developed UAV has demonstrated in the Lahaul-Spiti area.

Port giants dock at Indian harbour

Port majors in countries like China, France and Britain are keen to invest in Indian ports. This could be towards setting up greenfield projects, improving productivity at existing ports and setting up other facilities like container terminals and roads. Total investment, expected to cross Rs 10,000 crore over one year, would help private and government port authorities use new technology and expedite implementation of schemes, said a senior official with a private port. Some of the deals could be in the form of JVs with foreign ports. FDI up to 100% is allowed under automatic route for construction and maintenance of ports and harbours.Sources familiar with the development said that Jurong Port Authority of China has firmed up plans to set up a greenfield port in the east coast with Sical Logistics, involving an initial investment of Rs 1,500 crore. Similarly, Mumbai Port Trust is entering into a sister port agreement with the Port of Marseille-Fos of France while the Irish Port Authority is likely to invest in Jaigarh Port in Maharashtra.According to a senior official with the infrastructure advisory committee of KPMG, “The main idea of foreign collaboration is to enhance the business skills of major Indian ports. Collaboration with the foreign ports will not only enrich Indian ports technologically, but also enable them to operate from anywhere in the world.” Notably, Mundra Port has already signed an MoU with Antwerp Port Authority to absorb some of the international port management practices. A few years ago, multinationals like DP World and Maersk had invested in container terminals in local ports like JNPT and Pipavav. Private sector investments in nonmajor ports have already increased with investments in Mundra, Pipavav, Hazira, Gangavaram and Krishnapatnam, among others. However, Indian ports still face various constraints like hinterland connectivity, inland cargo handling capability and shortage of skilled manpower for port operations. “There is a need for policy changes in the port sector. In terms of infrastructure policy, we are still far away from developed countries,” said an analyst. He said large stateowned port authorities should get adequate autonomy in decision-making, a change that will attract more foreign investment. India has 12 major ports, six each on the west and east coasts, and about 45 functioning non-major ports.

Goa Draft Regional Plan 2021

The Task Force on Regional Plan 2021 has suggested regulation of future growth in the overexploited tourism hotspots such as Calangute and Old Goa, saying the lack of a clear roadmap may lead to further destruction of the state’s tourism assets.“Critical area plans need to be drawn up for overexploited tourist areas - beaches, heritage sites and pilgrimage destinations,” the TF stated in the draft Regional Plan 2021. The tourism hotspots, especially Baga-Calangute-Sinquerim, Anjuna-Vagator-Chapora, Morjim-Mandrem-Arambol, Betalbatim-Colva-Benaulim and Palolem are reeling under problems of leakage of sewage, contaminated groundwater and congestion from an emphasis on tourism of ‘numbers’ - luring of more and more tourists. “We cannot allow the coast to stagnate and we need a plan to make Goa’s midlands more attractive to tourists,” Edgar Ribeiro, member Task Force said. “It is high time citizens decide about problems of excessive growth in hotspots beyond the carrying capacity and too many gated communities in beach areas,” he added.Ribeiro, who had advocated the shifting of the Konkan railway route to the midland in the late eighties, says 90% of the traffic moves through the coast. “The new hubs proposed in the RP in places like Dharbandora with a link to the Golden Quadrilateral will help,” he added. The Task Force has stressed on upgradation of physical infrastructure to carry the load envisaged in terms of residents and tourists in future through micro-level plans for sewage, waste management, location of STPs and proper facilities on the beaches.

Somewhere in Hyderabad....

A massacre of trees in the name of development.This time in Hyderabad by the HMDA near the Hi-Tec City junction.

Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh calls himself an accidental Prime Minister. Be that as it may, with the Indo-US nuclear deal and consequent liberation of India from the 34-yearold technology denial regime, he has secured his place in history as one of the notable Prime Ministers of this country. He joins the ranks of Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee in shaping and advancing India’s progress in international politics. Nehru formulated India’s non-aligned strategy, not nonalignment as a doctrine. Shastri thwarted Pakistan’s carefully laid plans to seize Kashmir and humiliate India. Indira Gandhi won the Bangladesh war and conducted Pokhran nuclear test. Rajiv Gandhi ordered the assembly of nuclear weapons when his far-sighted nuclear disarmament plans were ignored by the UN, Narasimha Rao nurtured the nuclear arsenal and liberalised the economy with the assistance of Manmohan Singh, and Vajpayee conducted the Shakti Tests and declared India a nuclear-weapons state. Vajpayee also initiated the dialogue with all major powers of the world to ensure India’s rightful place in the international system. But it was given to Manmohan Singh to complete the process of liberating India from technology apartheid, obtain recognition for India as a power with nuclear weapons outside the Non-proliferation Treaty but no longer boycotted by the international community. India today has strategic partnership with US, European Union, Russia, Japan and China. And it is recognised as one of the six balancers of power. India is invited to G-8 summit along with China. Manmohan Singh understood well the changes in the international trends and the opportunities the post-Cold-War world order presented to India. He enabled Indian entrepreneurship to take full advantage of the favourable international trends. The result was the unprecedented 8 per cent growth rate. His handicap was the political alliance with the Left, still steeped in Stalinist and Cold War orthodoxy. This resulted in his reform programme being slowed down. In the first four years, he appears to have opted to keep the government going. However, in the fifth year, he faced the choice of sacrificing the opportunity to achieve for India the liberation from technology apartheid and recognition as a legitimate sixth nuclear power or a few more months in office without risking a confidence vote. He decided to stake the life of the coalition government. He succeeded in winning the vote of confidence for his government and timed it well. That timing generated pressures on international community to get India the IAEA safeguards, the NSG waiver and completion of the Indo-US nuclear deal in quick succession. In the immediate future the IAEA safeguards, the NSG waiver and the Indo-US nuclear deal are bound to be criticised by his opponents. But he has established his place in history.Manmohan Singh has been reviled by his opponents. That is nothing new in Indian politics. Shastri was called a prisoner of indecision. Indira Gandhi was called a Goongi Gudiyah. Rao was famous for his exposition that no decision was itself a decision. What Manmohan Singh has done is irreversible, just as his liberalisation and globalisation were. It is to be seen how he is going to use his newly won clout. That will not make him a conventional politician. His understanding of the international political and economic trends is far superior to that of most of our politicians. There is talk of his being projected as UPA’s Prime Ministerial candidate in the coming elections. The present achievements, the NSG waiver and the Indo-US nuclear deal would certainly justify this.
BJP leader LK Advani made a scathing attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accusing him of being the ‘most incompetent' Prime Minister and ‘devaluing' his office and said no decision is taken without the consent of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. "Manmohan Singh, when not a politician, was held in high esteem.But today compared with the past 14 prime ministers of our country, he is the most incompetent one as prime minister of India",alleged Advani.

A-Star compact to treble Maruti’s exports

Maruti Suzuki’s exports are set to zip in the fast lane with the launch of the A-Star compact. The launch of the new model, primarily targeted at the European markets, will nearly treble the share of exports to overall sales to 20% by fiscal 2010-11 against the 6.9% last fiscal, company officials said. Officials said the new compact car, to be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show on October 2, would start selling in Europe from beginning next year. “While we would sell the car in India by October-November this year, exports would start only by early next year,” officials said.Importantly, this is the first car from Suzuki’s stable that would be solely manufactured in India for the world market. Maruti has so far exported over 531000 units of different models from India since 1986 and the production of the A-Star will boost the foreign shipments manifold.The company plans to produce 2 lakh units of the A-Star and half of these would be exported to Europe under the ‘Alto’ brand. Of the remaining 1 lakh units, the company will sell half in the domestic market while the other half is likely to be sold to Nissan Motors that will sell it overseas under the ‘Pixo’ brand. Officials said with the boost from A-Star, Maruti’s exports would jump to 2 lakh units by 2010-11, the year when it expects overall sales of one million units. While half of the export numbers would come from A-Star, the rest would be from the existing models. And to handle the higher volumes, the company has tied with the Adani group up for a dedicated car terminal at Mundra port in Gujarat where they are investing Rs 100 crore. Vaishali Jaju, automobile analyst at Angel Broking, said the A-Star would benefit the company by opening up the European market. “The high export volumes will also help the company insulate itself from any downturn in the domestic market,” Jaju said. She said profit margins could be a cause for concern, as exports tend to provide lesser margins against sale in the domestic market. “This is something that has to be seen carefully,” Jaju said.

The American Meltdown Snapshot

The US Dollar Bill's reaction to the current situation.

Pune's getting ready for the CYG

Pune is gearing up to host the Commonwealth Youth Games in less than two weeks.I doubt whether they will be ready in time with most of the roads still not finished.

RCom soft launches GSM service in Mumbai, Delhi

Reliance Communications (RCom), the telecom arm of the ADA Group, is all set to launch its GSM mobile services in major cities.The company soft launched its GSM services in Mumbai and Delhi circles yesterday with about 10,000 of its employees participating. With RCom too entering the Mumbai’s telecom space, it would be the second player after Idea Cellular to launch its GSM services in the city, one of the largest telecom services in the country. Besides the two metropolises, the company has also started testing its GSM network in pockets of UP, Gujarat, Punjab, Rajasthan and the four southern states. According to sources, RCom has started testing its GSM network in cities which account for 45% of the Indian telecom subscriber base. Testing in others places will start soon. Depending upon how quickly the network is optimised, the final launch for customers could take a couple of months or more after the soft launch, industry players said. An RCom spokesperson confirmed that with the plan to launch its pan-India GSM service, the company has started testing its network in several circles in the country. The company had earmarked about Rs 6,000 crore for launching its GSM services in those circles where it is not present. Source said telecom equipment providers like Huawie, Alcatel and TenXc are engaged in the setting up the network for RCom. As of now RCom has GSM as well as CDMA footprints in some of the eastern and north eastern states, while rest of the country is covered by only CDMA services. Currently, the company has a total subscriber base of about 55 million from 20,000 towns and over 4 lakh villages across the country. While in the first phase of the soft launch the company’s employees are being given test SIM cards, in the next phase RCom will get associates, vendors and some others on the network for testing the robustness of its network.

Doosra Deal

India’s decades-long nuclear apartheid will finally be over. Emerging from a bruising battle that lasted a little more than three years with the coveted pass to nuclear commerce in hand, India will, in a space of weeks, ink path-breaking civil nuclear agreements with the US and France. After India signs a deal with Russia in December, it will be tantamount to a second freedom for India—this time from a regime built over decades to keep it out of legitimate nuclear trade and in a state of knowledge-deficit. The stage has been set for the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal next month, after the US Senate ratifies the deal next week, even if it may not be by as overwhelming a margin by which the Hyde Act was approved. Sources said there were five holdouts in the Senate including 90-year-old Robert Byrd, who reportedly has nothing against the deal but, being a stickler for procedure, opposes the way the Bush administration has tried to ram the deal through Congress. The five Democrat leaders are Byrd, Russ Feingold, Barbara Boxer, Tom Harkin and Haya (from Hawaii). The Bill, which got a 298-117 backing from the House of Representatives hours before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left the US, is to be taken up by the Senate next week. The tally was only marginally more than the two-thirds benchmark in the 435-member House, and suggested a diminution of support the deal had received during voting on the Hyde Act by a 359-68 score. The lower count, however, did not faze officials who attributed it to reservations of some members about the way the Bush administration had fast-tracked the deal through Congress. The passage of the Berman Bill HR 7081 will set the stage for the 123 agreement to be signed into law by President George Bush and the formal signing during secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s visit to New Delhi in October. Earlier, Rice was scheduled to follow foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee back to New Delhi on October 3. But because of Durga puja, Mukherjee will not be available. Mukherjee will be in Washington from Monday. Fresh dates for Rice’s visit are being worked out.The Indian side has been assured by the Bush administration that all its concerns regarding extraneous provisions in the Congress bill would be addressed by the presidential signing statement. India’s concerns are mainly about the dilution of the fuel-supply assurances in the Congress. In a move that was far from acceptable to India, Howard Berman, a known critic of the deal, put the state department’s letter to the late Tom Lantos on the Congressional record. The letter set out the position that fuel guarantees would not hold in case India conducted a nuclear test.
A nuclear energy deal with France is likely to be signed in Paris today during the PM’s visit. With Russians also eager to sign their own version of the 123 deal with India, the technology denial regime erected after India conducted the first Pokharan test will finally disappear.Amid jubilation among officials and members of the Indian American community who worked hard to garner support for the deal on Capitol Hill, concerns remained about the language of the Bill.
Immediate benefits of the N-Deals: India can import N-fuel for civilian reactors. India’s nuclear plants function at about 40% plant load factor. This can immediately move up to at least 90% . NPCIL in talks for building 8 nuclear plants. After the deals are signed, these plans move into faster gear. India can source uranium from countries like Canada and Kazakhstan.
Medium term benefits:India Inc can access dual-use technologies in sectors like IT, pharma and space. Global defence majors can start talks on defence sales to India — this means start of defence outsourcing to India and growth of that industry. India can start negotiations with top NSG countries to lift national dual-use technology ban.
Long term benefits:India could become a nuclear supplier itself. Huge diplomatic gains. Case for India as G8 member will get stronger .De-hyphenation with Pakistan complete, India will be on much stronger ground vis-a-vis China .


LPO : Legal Process Outsourcing

With Lehman Brothers going bankrupt, following the collapse of a series of other leading institutions, the financial sector is in crisis with jobs lost and markets in turmoil. But in the midst of this chaos, the legal service industry is quietly making an extra buck. The sub-prime meltdown in the US, and the rise in litigation, has increased the amount of legal work being outsourced to India. Revenues in the last six months have gone up more than 100 per cent, according to heads of legal process outsourcing companies in India. Because of rising costs, “companies are actively looking outsource to India, where legal work costs one-tenth of what lawyers charge in the US,” says Sirisha Gummaregula, COO of Quislex. If one company is satisfied with the results of a particular firm, word spreads. “Acceptance by the client and client-referrals have made a big difference to the sector,” she says. Added to that is the fact that with each passing year, legal costs go up at a rate of 5-6 per cent a year, says Alok Aggarwal, CEO of Evalueserve. Agrees Sanjay Kamlani of Pangea3: “Recession and the events leading up to it have created a lot of additional legal work for Indian firms.” This includes legal analytics, litigation, electronic discovery, due diligence work, risk assessments, research document drafting, bankruptcy, filing and processing. “With Lehman Brothers, we are looking forward to more bankruptcy and M&A related work coming our way as the recession sets in. “We’re definitely going to be working with companies like Lehman, Merrill and Morgan,” says Anthony Alex, VP, legal services at Pangea3. Now, Indian lawyers aren’t stuck with just the menial paperwork; India-based outsourcing firms are now “strategic consultants” to US- and UK-based companies that are going bankrupt or are involved in mergers and acquisitions. “The variety and complexity of projects is changing as clients move from successful pilot projects to longer term engagements, definitely a step forward from 18 months ago,” says Matthew Banks, senior VP, legal services, Integreon. First came the BPOs (business process outsourcing) taking the country by storm, and then the KPOs (knowledge process outsourcing). Legal process outsourcing (LPO) was the last service-based industry to hit the Indian market in 2004-05 because legal services is a more conservative industry and requires more personalised client-lawyer relationship. Because legal work is usually ‘confidential’, trust plays a very important role, say experts. “This trust came from our KPO experience which proved our management, infrastructure and process capability,” says Banks. However, not all is hunky dory for Indian LPOs. “The hype is bigger than the phenomenon,” says Aggarwal. “Of the 115-odd LPOs in India, top US and UK based companies offshore their documentation to only about 15,” he adds. “The English written and spoken by most Indian lawyers is very ‘Indianised’. So it is better than outsourcing to China where they don’t speak much English, but still not as good as local law firms in the US,” Aggarwal points out.

Financing India's Urban Development

Rapid urbanisation has the potential of becoming a major engine of India’s economic growth and improvement in the quality of life.It is estimated that by 2021, urban agglomerations will contribute nearly 75% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). By 2010, about 30% of India’s population will be urban. This ratio will exceed 50% by 2045, when over 700 million Indians are expected to be living in urban areas. Enormous investment in urban infrastructure and amenities will be needed to realise the growth potential and improve the lives of an increasing number of urban Indians. The estimates of annual investment vary widely (from Rs 17,000 crore to Rs 60,000 crore) depending on methods and scope.There is unanimity among the experts that governments cannot finance the needed investments through even reformed conventional tax and non-tax sources (such as property tax, reasonable cost recovery fees and user charges), and from traditional loans, grants and statutory transfers. This does not imply that reforms should not be undertaken to increase revenue from conventional sources. These reforms are necessary but will not be sufficient. There are at least four major unconventional sources of revenue available to the urban local bodies (ULBs). The first concerns more productive use of the assets of ULBs. This will require constructing a detailed and accurate list of all assets owned by them. Land and real estate are likely to constitute a major proportion of such assets. Property rights associated with airspace and underground space and other regulatory procedures are also an important part of total assets. But these must be created to ensure lower transaction costs and improve economic efficiency and not become a means of political or economic rent seeking and misuse of public office.A good example of creation of property rights, which are efficient and equitable, is provided by the Karnataka government. It has permitted the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to grant transferable development rights (TDRs) to property owners and leaseholders who were affected by a planned road widening scheme. As a result, BBMP could acquire land without paying compensation and the owners had the option to either undertake construction or sell the TDR to builders in specified zones. This suggests there are a variety of ways such revenue-generation initiatives can be structured.The second avenue concerns revenue generation from switching to more efficient technology and service delivery structures. For example, replacing existing street lights with less energy consuming lights (as Mumbai is reportedly considering) could generate carbon credits and save on operating costs. More efficient fuel for transport and power generation could also lead to similar outcomes. The third revenue generating option for the ULBs is to access capital market funding through the issuance of municipal bonds. Since municipal bonds need to be rated by a credit rating agency, their issuance is likely to indirectly lead to better budgeting and accounting systems; and to monitoring of local finances by bond rating agencies and investors. Smaller ULBs can access such funds through pooled financing, as has been the case with Tamil Nadu.Fourth, public transport and public space can be efficiently utilised to generate advertising revenue. This would, however, require proper auction mechanisms and the contract drawing and implementing skills. An interesting example of such an initiative is provided by the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Ltd, a public transport body. It has reportedly awarded advertising rights at its 2,600 bus shelters and on all its buses to a Malaysian company for 15 years in return for 2,300 air-conditioned buses. The contract design details and the ability of both sides to implement the contract as envisaged will, however, determine the actual outcome.Public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements can also be utilised for delivery of basic urban infrastructure; social amenities (health, education, old age care); as well as for providing expertise in urban management and policy implementation. Several ULBs in India have benefited from PPP contracts in areas ranging from sweeping of streets to partnerships in building large roads and highways. A creative example of PPP for greater youth employability is provided by the Gujarat government programme for building functional English language proficiency needed by businesses. The target is to train 3.5 million young people over four years in more than 1,000 centres across the state. The assessment partner in this programme is the Cambridge University of the UK. For any PPP to be successful, each partner must bring something of real economic value to the project or to an activity, while exhibiting organisational structures and attitudes which are consistent with the creation of public or social value. The resources brought to the PPP may be in the form of money, land, regulatory facilitation, technical expertise, and management know-how and know-why. The PPPs should be evaluated on the basis of overall resource cost savings to the society (or the taxpayers) that they generate in achieving desired outcomes. It is clear that for the ULBs to access unconventional sources of finance, they will have to become more adept at initiating and sustaining the PPPs. In addition to domain or technical expertise, government officials will need to develop soft skills such as networking abilities and proficiency in communication techniques. The transformation of policy initiatives concerning unconventional sources and the PPPs into tangible outcomes should not depend solely on the efforts of an implementing officer in a local authority. Continuity of purpose and commitment should be an integral part of the organisation culture of the ULBs. There is recognition in official circles that this will require fundamental reforms in the governance structure of the ULBs. The Second Administrative Reform Commission, for example, has recommended an elected mayor who essentially acts as a chief executive officer (CEO) of a municipal body. The mayor should have an accountable cabinet. As urban agglomerations involving several ULBs are becoming more important in the country, regional planning and coordination have become increasingly essential. Thus, development of appropriate organisations, which make such planning feasible, should also receive priority. Rapid urbanisation and rising incomes are increasingly leading to demand for better quality of urban services and amenities. Those who meet this demand are likely to reap rich electoral dividends. Managing rapid urbanisation with competence and outcome orientation is essential if India is to emerge as a successful and respected major power in the 21st century.


In 2005, Rahul Bhatia, the managing director of InterGlobe Enterprises, created a furore at the Paris Air Show when he ordered 100 A320s. It was the biggest order from India and nobody even knew who Bhatia was. The next year, he quietly launched his budget airline IndiGo. Today, it is the largest domestic no-frills airline. IndiGo flies 99 daily flights to 17 destinations in India - Agartala, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Imphal, Jaipur, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune and Vadodara. IndiGo's business model is that of a classic no-frills airline. One type of aircraft (brand new A320s), one route mission (domestic India), one class of service, strong focus on operational integrity (on time), simple processes (hassle-free), affordable .

India Retail Report

The retail market in the country is expected to be worth over Rs 18,10,000 crore by 2010. And organised retail is likely to exceed Rs 2,30,000 crore (at constant prices), at about 13% of the pie, according to India Retail Report (2009 edition).RS Roy, editorial director, India Retail Report 2009 said, “Our research estimates the Indian retail market in 2007 at Rs 13,30,000 crore, growing annually at 10.8%. The share of organised Retail in 2007 was estimated to be only 5.9%, or Rs 78,300 crore. Modern retail witnessed a growth rate of 42.4% in 2007 and we envisage it to maintain a faster growth rate over the next three years. Increase in consumer spending is and will push the economy into a growth-and-liberalisation mode.”In the overall retail pie, food and grocery was the dominant category with 59.5% share, valued at Rs 7,92,000 crore, followed by clothing and accessories with a 9.9% share at Rs 1,31,300 crore. Interestingly, out-of-home food (catering) services (Rs 71,300 crore) has overtaken jewellery (Rs 69,400 crore) as the third-largest retail category, with a 5.4% market share. Consumer durables (Rs 57,500 crore) is the fifth-largest retail category, followed by health and pharmaceuticals (Rs 48,800 crore), entertainment (Rs 45,600 crore), furniture, furnishings and kitchenware (Rs 45,500 crore), mobiles and accessories (Rs 27,200 crore), leisure retail (Rs 16,400 crore), footwear (Rs 16,000 crore), health and beauty care services (Rs 4,600 crore) and watches and eyewear (Rs 4,400 crore), in the order.In organised retailing, however, clothing and fashion accessories is the largest category with a market share of 38.1%, at Rs 29,800 crore, followed by food and grocery with 11.5% (Rs 9,000 crore), footwear 9.9% (Rs 7,750 crore) and consumer durables 9.1% (Rs 7,100 crore). Timewear (48.9%) and Footwear (48.4%) are the most organised of all retail categories, followed by clothing & fashion accessories (22.7%).At 25.6% year-on-year, the fastest-growing segment in the overall pie in 2007 was mobile and accessories followed by out-of-home food (catering) services (25.1%) and books, music & gifts leisure category (23.3%). In organised retail, however, the fastest growth was recorded in the tiny health and beauty care services category at Rs 660 crore, which grew 65%. The second-fastest-growing organised retail category was entertainment (53.8%), followed by the mobile phones and accessories (55.2%) and food and grocery retail (55.2%.At constant prices, growth in the fashion and accessories retail category, both in the overall market and the organised retail segment, have been consistently positive since 2004: while the overall market grew 12.8% in 2007, the organised segment grew 35.5%.In jewellery retail, the overall market growth was higher in 2007 (9.6%) as compared with the previous year (9.2%) but growth in organised retail was slightly lower (31%).The overall market growth in the timewear category has declined from 10.7% in 2005 to 9.7% in 2006 and further to 8.9% in 2007. However, growth in organised retail was higher in 2007 (16.6%, as against 14.8% in 2006). Footwear retail, the overall market as well as organised segment, grew faster year after year, but growth in 2007 has been remarkable. The overall market grew 12% in 2007 as against 9.2% in 2006, while the organised segment grew 42.3% and 36.4%, respectively. Growth in the health and beauty care has been optimistic, though the organised segment growth of 57.5% in 2007 was slightly lower as compared with 59.1% in 2006. In the furnishings and furniture retail category, the overall market grew at 7% in 2007 as against 3.2% in 2006 - thanks to the housing sector boom. The organised segment also grew faster at 29.7% in 2007 as against 23.1% the previous year. At constant prices, the overall food and grocery retail market grew slightly higher at 2.3% in 2007 as compared with 2.2% in the two previous years. The report suggests that the organised retail segment in this category is simmering in the true sense - a 50% growth in 2007 as against 42.9% in 2006, and lot more fireworks can be expected going ahead. Valued at Rs 9,000 crore, this organised market constitutes barely 1.1% of the total food and grocery retail market.

Barista brews Bangla cup

Barista Coffee Company Ltd (BCCL) is all set to take its Barista Espresso Bar chain to Bangladesh. The Indian café chain that was acquired by Italian coffee major Lavazza in 2007 has already entered into a franchise agreement with a company in Bangladesh and expects to roll out the first store in 30-45 days.Tarak Bhattacharya, head of operations, Barista Coffee said that the company has appointed MGH Group as its master franchisee for Bangladesh. “We are currently fine-tuning the pricing of our products for the Bangladesh market. Once that is done, the menu will be ready for printing and the first espresso bar should get operational in just over a month from now.”BCCL is targeting setting up of around six espresso bars in Bangladesh over the next 18 months. Vishal Kapoor, head of marketing and product development, Barista Coffee said the company was currently looking only at the espresso bar format in Bangladesh. “At a later stage, we might explore the possibilities of extending the Barista Crème format,” he said. Barista’s espresso bars will be set up in key locations. In fact, Dhaka will have at least two espressos at the very beginning.Barista Crème is a large-format store spread across 2,000 sq ft and is positioned as a high-end coffee lounge. Barista Espresso Bars are small-formats and have an area of around 900 sq ft. The cost of setting up an outlet is in the range of Rs 30-50 lakh, depending on the size. The cost is usually higher for Barisa Crème as its products are mostly exclusive. In India, Barista Coffee is planning to add 84 outlets in the next six months. It is also seeking a footprint in 10 cities other than the ones it already has a presence in. These outlets will be set up in southern, northern, western and eastern region of the country in the order of priority. The entire funding will be through internal accruals.BCCL currently has 220 stores across 32 cities, including 15 Barista Creme outlets. By 2008-end, the company plans to have 300 cafes across 42 cities.“Most of the store openings will be in the south, north and west and only a small percentage will be in the eastern region. Of the 84 new outlets, six will be Barista Crème and the rest will be Barista Espresso Bar,” Bhattacharya said.In fact, Barista will also enter the airport retailing space in Mumbai with at least six outlets. “Of these six outlets, one will be a Barista Crème,” Kapoor said.The coffee café chain recently revisited its pricing strategy across all outlets. “There has been an increase in the input cost and hence we made a slight increase in the product pricing in our menu,” said Bhattacharya. The increase is to the tune of 8% across all our outlets, Bhattacharya said.Interestingly, Barista’s key competitor Café Coffee Day Ltd (CCDL) also raised the prices of its products by 8% a couple of months ago. As a result, both the coffee café chains now have similar menu pricing, which was not the case earlier as Barista was perceived to be more expensive than CCDL, giving the latter a competitive edge.

How the American meltdown will impact India

The US financial meltdown – which has seen the collapse of investment banks like Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and the humbling of powerhouses like Merrill Lynch and AIG – will have a roll-on effect in India, too. Apart from the psychological impact of the crash of Wall Street giants, the imminence of recession in the US economy and pullout of funds from emerging markets by cash-hungry institutions, here’s how the meltdown could affect us.
Stocks: Companies in the real estate and infrastructure sectors will be hit. “Capital-intensive sectors like infrastructure will face problems,” says Mahesh Patil, fund manager, Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund. Anuj Puri, chairman and country head, Jones Lang Lasalle Meghraj, a real estate consultancy says, “Foreign capital for private equity investments in Indian real estate may see a temporary downturn, causing the stocks of listed companies to decline. However, we expect normalcy to be re-established once market sentiment recovers.” But with stock prices down, this may be a good time to invest. “Spread your investment through systematic investment plans over the next six months as there might be a further downside of 10%,” Patil says. But be prepared to wait 3-5 years for payoffs.
Real estate: The long-overdue price correction is on its way. “For the residential segment, prices will go down in the top eight cities but the degree of fall could vary. The correction could be around 20-25% across the board after Diwali,” says Ambar Maheshwari, director in Mumbai for international real estate consultants DTZ. Investors and speculators are best advised to stay away from real estate. “In smaller towns, the real estate market is dead. Even in Mumbai, as interest costs go up and debt becomes scarce, you will find that a buyer is willing to wait,” says Kenneth Andrade, vice-president (equities), IDFC Mutual Fund.
Jobs & pay: According to Surabhi Mathur Gandhi, general manager, permanent staffing, at Bangalore-based TeamLease Services, there could be a 25-30% drop in the hiring of freshers by the IT, banking, financial services, and insurance sectors. Moreover, pay hikes next year will be much more conservative than earlier. On an average, average pay hikes may be pegged at round about 10%, or even less, says E Balaji, chief executive officer of Chennai based HR consulting firm Ma Foi Consultants.
Infaltion : Currently, inflation stands at 12.14%. Experts feel it might go up even further. Says Rupa Rege Nitsure, chief economist, Bank of Baroda, “I think the scanty rainfall in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh will add to price pressures with the prices of pulses, edible oils and sugar going up. This could see inflation rising to 14.5% by December-end.”
Interest rates: When inflation remains high, interest rates will not come down too easily. “I think rates will start coming down only from the next financial year,” adds Nisture. Hence, those looking for lower home loan EMIs will have to wait. On the other side, fixed deposits are likely to give you greater returns. On the bright side, however, with the world economy slowing down, interest rates have probably peaked – and that could be the case in India, too. This may be the time to lock into variable rate loans, since you could benefit from any downtrend – whenever that happens. Fixed-rate loans may not be a great idea anymore.
Gold: Demand for the yellow metal is usually low in India during the inauspicious ‘shraadh’ period, but this year the trend has reversed as a result of the American banking crisis. The bad news in America has forced investors to transit to safer havens such as gold.

BlackBerry may be made in India

Research in Motion (RIM), the Canada-based manufacturer of BlackBerry mobile phones, is considering manufacturing the handsets in India.But the size or other details of its proposed investment were not revealed. Jim Balsille (above), the co-chief executive of RIM, said the company was developing a ‘Made in India’ strategy.“We are looking at manufacturing and logistics in the country. I met some policymakers in Delhi regarding this,” he said. Balsille also said that the company is looking to develop cheaper handsets and services suited for markets such as India. In the country to launch RIM’s latest smart-phone, he said, “India has a creative, dynamic workforce that can create wireless solutions.”
Meanwhile, the company has added Tata Teleservices to its list of partners in the country. The firm currently has Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar, BPL Mobile and Reliance Communications selling its phones, which are primarily known for their enterprise email capabilities.

Tata investment in Africa is worth billions

As one of the first Indian companies to enter Africa almost six decades ago, the Tata Group, through its affiliate Tata Africa, now has a presence in 11 countries, with investments there worth billions of rands.Tata Africa Managing Director Raman Dhawan was speaking at a gathering where the first Tata scholarships for post graduate students of the University of KwaZulu Natal were made."The Tata Group's historical connection with Africa dates back to 1909 when Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, also called on the support of the Passive Resistance Movement against (what would later be called) apartheid in South Africa. And Tata got actively involved at that time," Dhawan said.
Emphasising the importance of honesty, integrity and transparency to the students, Dhawan explained these basic principles of the Tata Group: "The Tata Group is one of very few that has managed to successfully traverse three centuries in its 140-year existence because the founders used a very simple but forward-looking concept - what comes from the people must go back.
"In Tata Sons, which is the apex body of the group, 66 percent of the profits go into philanthropy and therefore there are many social institutions and other organisations such as the Tata Memorial Hospital, recognised as one of the leading cancer research institute sin the world."
Dhawan summed up Tata's diverse interests in South Africa: "We obviously could not invest in South Africa (because of apartheid isolation), and our operations in South Africa started only about 13 years ago. During that period the group has engaged in various activities."We are a very diversified group, so currently what we have in South Africa is automobiles - we make bus bodies in Johannesburg and we are looking to assemble vehicles as well."One of the largest investments of Tata in South Africa is in your province - the ferrochrome smelter in Richards Bay that makes 130 tons of ferrochrome."
Dhawan mentioned the current huge activity in the telecoms sector by the second national fixed line licensee, Neotel, in which Tata has a major stake; as well as Tata Consultancy Services, "one of the jewels in the Tata group", which is also operating in the IT sector South Africa and the rest of the continent."We are also now constructing two hotels - the first one has started in Cape Town and the second one will be in Johannesburg.In fact we also tried to build a hotel in Durban, but due to some issues we could not start that, but we will come back as and when those issues are resolved. We look forward to be back here in Durban to build that hotel."
Dhawan said the total investment by Tata in South Africa, when all the projects are completed, should be about 10 billion rands.

PastaMania to expand in India

Singapore-based Italian fast food chain PastaMania is expanding its operations in the Indian market with plans to set up 50 outlets by 2012 with an investment of Rs 40 crore.The company's Indian master franchisee, Essence Retail Ventures has entered into a joint venture with retail solutions provider Franchisee India Holdings for setting up its footprints in India, PastaMania said in a statement.The JV company, PastaMania India, would be a 50-50 partnership between Essence Retail Ventures and Franchisee India Holdings.
"We have started with one outlet each in Gurgaon, Pune and Ahmedabad. PastaMania has huge plans of expanding in India, with the target of 50 stores in metros and mini-metros by 2012 at an investment of Rs 40 crore," Essence Retail Ventures Director Abhay Bengeri said.
He said the company is aiming for a turnover of Rs 120 crore once all outlets are operational by 2012.The new JV would focus on the metros and Tier I cities for its expansion."Our aim is to fill the gap in the Indian market due to the lack of an outlet that specialises in pasta, beyond other Italian preparations like pizza and garlic breads," Bengeri said.
The PastaMania India outlets would come in two formats. While the large format stores would have an area of 1,800 sqft, the small format stores would be of 1,300 sq ft in size.PastaMania at present operates a chain of outlets in various South-East Asian and Middle-East countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Dubai and Kuwait.

Ranjangaon may be Fiat global base

Fiat is exploring the option of using its Ranjangaon plant near Pune as a global base for some key models in the future. This could even include its own low-cost car planned for Europe and other advanced countries. In an interview, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of the Fiat group, said the Ranjangaon facility could be used for manufacture of select models for the global market.“It eventually boils down to standardisation of volumes. Perhaps our own low-cost car for Europe could even be made in India.”The company had put in a lot of resources, time and money in creating Ranjangaon, he said. “This facility has the infrastructure to build the Fiat brand in India. It can be an integral part of the manufacturing footprint of Fiat worldwide and that is a big issue for us,” Marchionne said.Fiat has tied up with Tata Motors in a 50:50 joint venture to manufacture over 200,000 cars and powertrains in this plant.The Linea and Grande Punto have been identified as the models for India as part of a business plant which will see 70,000 Fiat cars produced here till 2010. The balance will come from Tata Motors.However, Marchionne did not think the relatively modest numbers would be a limiting factor for the future.“It is a world-class plant and we will find ways to increase capacity. When we built our facility in Poland, it was designed for 250,000 units and the last time I saw it, it was in a position to run over 600,000 units,” he said. The Fiat CEO reiterated that the low-cost car would clearly not carry the company’s brand.“We need to be very careful about one thing which is that the vehicle concerned cannot be a Fiat which is a premium brand today in the segment it operates in. We see some potential in Europe for this low-cost car though it may not be a large part of the population,” he said.According to him, there could be some fit with Tata Motors for this project though this would be “more on the architecture side”.Asked if it would take over from the Nano platform, he replied that there were many options ahead and this could be one of them.Interestingly, on the subject of small cars, Fiat had recently bought a 70% stake in Serbia’s Zastava car company for $1 billion. This facility makes the Punto and Astra for East European markets with plans afoot to manufacture the Topoliono on the same platform of the Grande Punto and Fiat 500. Marchionne said Zastava was “an extension” of the manufacturing platform out of Poland. “We need additional capacity to meet small car demand in Europe especially for the A and B segments in the coming years and this is where Zastava fits in for capacity expansion. Rajangaon will, likewise, be an integral part of that global footprint,” he said.On the Tata alliance, there have been reports of Iveco, the truck arm of Fiat, entering the picture too but the Fiat CEO said this could wait for some time. “It may be premature to talk of any deepening of the relationship on the Iveco side because we need to wait till some of these markets mature and require the level of technology.” “For the moment, the Indian truck segment is not fully developed on the technology front,” he said.Also, the overseas foray for Tata pick-ups could take a wee bit longer. There were plans to roll out the company’s Sprint from Fiat’s plant in Cordoba, Argentina but that has been put on hold for the moment.“Both Tata Motors and Fiat are not as convinced as what we were originally. The market does not hold the kind of demand that we thought it would,” Marchionne said.

'SpiceJet among top 10 budget carriers in Asia'

An online travel magazine tracking Asia's hotels, spas and airlines has ranked India's low-cost carrier SpiceJet among the top 10 budget airlines in the continent.The magazine, Smart Travel Asia, based its finding on a survey between May and July on low-cost carriers (LCC), SpiceJet said in a press statement.The survey also said the airline has made its mark by maintaining schedules, competent service and extensive route network and access.The chief commercial officer of SpiceJet, Samyukth Sridharan, said the airline has been able to attract fliers by keeping fares affordable and introducing exciting schemes besides expanding its network.
"Our on-time performance is among the best in India at 82 percent and technical dispatch reliability of 99.6 percent makes us an airline with least cancellations," said Sridharan.
The airline was earlier adjudged the best LCC for 2007 by the Travel Agents Federation of India, and voted the best carrier in its category by a readers' survey conducted nationally by travel magazine Outlook Traveller.SpiceJet currently operates 94 flights daily to 16 cities in India.

Northeast finally attracts attention of private firms

India's northeastern states can now hope for improvement in infrastructure and more business opportunities with as many as 247 companies showing interest in investing in the region, especially in the tourism sector, officials said.Fifty-three firms have expressed interest in the tourism sector alone, which is a leap from the meagre 14 last year, said an official of the ministry of Development of Northeastern Region (DoNER).The keenness to invest in the picturesque region increased after the Fourth Northeast Business Summit that took place Sep 15-16 in Guwahati, Assam. A total of 247 firms showed interest in the region at the conclusion of the summit.
While Assam attracted maximum interest with a total of 64 companies wanting to invest there, the other seven states also received a lot of attention.According to the DoNER official, over 30 companies in the IT sector are now keen to invest in the region.
Maximum interest was, however, seen in the agro and food processing sector, which received queries from 65 firms. More than 70 companies came forth in the infrastructure sector, 53 in tourism and 12 in manufacturing.A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was also signed between the Indian Chamber of Commerce and its Bangladesh counterpart to promote more trade with the northeastern region.
Former tourism secretary M.P. Bezbaruah had earlier said that there was "too much dependence on the government's role in boosting the northeast region's tourism scenario", adding that the industry was always "private sector-driven".
The picturesque northeast region comprises eight states - Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura.

India will be first in Asia to rebound

India’s domestically driven economy will be among the first in Asia to rebound, in mid-2009, but the run-up to that will be a “white knuckle ride” during which it will be vulnerable to the ‘liquidity destruction’ induced by the global credit crunch, according to CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets economists.“India is currently in the midst of a cyclical downturn, which is being led by the consumer sector but is broad-based,” observes economist Sharmila Whelan. That downturn will run its full course without any early relief, but India will be Asia’s early mover in terms of moving into the next business cycle because unlike the other economies, it is not export-driven. “We believe the worst will be over by mid-2009.”While that’s the good news, it’s not all rosy. “The bad news,” says head of economic research Eric Fishwick, “is that until that recovery starts, India will prove surprisingly vulnerable to continued credit crunch and risk-aversion because it runs a current account deficit and needs to continually attract savings.” India, he adds, also has a weak fiscal position and fiscal implementation problems; it also has a “relatively overextended domestic credit cycle”. Lending has run ahead of GDP for five consecutive years, so there is likely to be more “balance-sheet strain” there than anywhere else.In Whelan’s estimation, inflation is unlikely to peak soon or start coming down rapidly. “I expect inflation to peak in the fourth quarter of this year; it will still be running at 12% at the end of this year, and at about 8.5% at the end of the fiscal year.” Beyond that, she expects it to come off steadily, with help from declining global commodity prices, to about 5.6% next fiscal.This also means that interest rates won’t fall off quickly. “I’m looking for the first rate cut in the second quarter of next year, and I won’t be surprised to see another rate rise in the interim.”Although the RBI had been aggressively raising interest rates since 2004 to combat inflation, it was actually “behind the curve,” says Whelan. “All of last year, the RBI was struggling to mop up excess liquidity, and money supply (M3) accelerated.” The problem, was that the RBI was overwhelmed by capital inflows.Had it not been for the money inflows in 2006-07, however, the Indian economy would have rolled over 18 months earlier than it did, agues Fishwick. Going forward, “I’m particularly worried about the Indian rupee, which will remain under pressure, and test Rs 49/dollar.” That’s because the RBI’s balance balance-sheet has grown at 25-26% y-o-y, which points to “a very loose monetary stances” - notwithstanding all those rate hikes. India’s economic rebound, when it does happen, will be investment-led, and consumption growth effect will kick in after a lag, says Whelan. “The initial recovery from a trough starts when profit margins and profit growth recovers. At this stage, companies start investing retained earnings to upgrade existing capacity.” Indian corporate, she adds, are well-positioned to finance investments. In the second stage of the investment-led cycle, “what you need to see is the return of risk appetite.” A more bullish outlook will lead companies to leverage up.” An additional factor that will inspire the Indian recovery is the government’s $500 billion infrastructure spending plan. Even factoring in delays and other hurdles, this spending will reinforce the investment cycle, reckons Whelan. She is projecting 7.3% GDP growth for FY 2008 and 6.5% next year.

Extreme Hinduism

An interesting and thought provoking article....
One communal party, the Muslim League, was responsible for the partition of India. The provocative role of another group of communal outfits, the Hindu supremacist Sangh Parivar led by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and its fraternal organisations like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal, has been alienating the minorities as never before.
There is little doubt that the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992 by a mob of Hindu fanatics and the Gujarat riots of 2002 have spawned an indigenous brand of terrorism involving a section, though a small one, of Indian Muslims. The latter comprise 13 per cent of the country's population, numbering 140 million out of India's total of one billion people - the third largest Muslim population in any country after Indonesia and Pakistan.
Even if the notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan as well as terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed based in Pakistan have been providing arms, money, shelter and guidance to the misguided minority of Indian Muslims, it is the latter who are now apparently acting as the foot soldiers of terrorism in India in addition to the mercenaries from abroad.
What has evidently made this section take to jehad in India is apparently the belief that the virulent anti-minority groups under the Parivar have been able to firmly establish themselves in Indian politics. As such, the minorities are now virtually at the mercy of these rabid elements, as the Gujarat riots earlier and the recent burning of churches in states where the BJP is in power show. It is necessary to remember that the minorities in India are made of the Muslims, the largest group, Christians, Sikhs and Zoroastrians or Parsis. Of them, the Muslims and Christians were marked out as "Internal Enemies Nos 1 and 2" by M.S.Golwalkar, a former RSS chief, in the 1960s.
Although the RSS and the Jana Sangh-BJP have long been a part of the social and political scene, they were essentially marginal forces till the late 1980s. Three developments around that period enabled these anti-minority outfits to move to the centre stage. One was the Congress's decline, another was the failure of the Left to grow beyond its bases in West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, and the third was the alliances - direct and indirect - which former Congressmen like V.P. Singh, and also the Left, formed with the Jana Sangh-BJP to keep the Congress out of power.
Incidentally, a similar anti-Congress tie-up is now again evident between the Left and the BJP on issues such as the nuclear deal, inflation and so on.
The demolition of the Babri Masjid was the first fallout of the new self-confidence as well as influence which the BJP gained from its association with the V.P. Singh government at the centre in 1989-90.
It was an unprecedented incident since places of worship had never before been targeted for destruction by any political group. For the BJP and the Parivar, it provided a kind of psychological breakthrough for, earlier, they were uncertain how the people would react to such an act of sacrilege.
But once they realised that they didn't have to pay too heavy a political price, they lost any inhibitions about sparing a house of God, as the recent attacks on churches from Orissa to Karnataka to Madhya Pradesh to Kerala by the saffron activists show. These acts of violence go against the grain of India's multicultural polity underlining respect for all communities, not to mention the Constitution, which is based on the rule of law and fundamental, including minority, rights.
It wasn't only the Babri Masjid demolition which told the Muslims that a dangerously divisive force had appeared with little respect for law and order or for the norms of civilised conduct. The Gujarat riots were another traumatic reminder of what could happen if such a force reached the corridors of power. Not surprisingly, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal ran amok in Gujarat while the police looked the other way. It is now the turn of the Christians in Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh to discover the same bitter truth.The grouse against the Christians is that they are forcibly converting people into their faith, although the census figures show a drop in the number of Christians in India from 2.5 to 2.3 per cent.
The inevitable consequence of loss of faith in fair governance because of the BJP's political clout was the radicalisation of the Muslim youth. Once the routes of legal redress are closed, terrorism casts its fatal spell on the helpless victims. In Gujarat, the failure of the police to protect the minorities was compounded by the subversion of the judicial process by Chief Minister Narendra Modi's administration, which compelled the Supreme Court to transfer some of the cases to states outside Gujarat since no justice was possible under the BJP government.
It is possible that the example of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere had primed the misguided among the Indian Muslim youths for similar acts in India. However, but for the vicious anti-minority stance of the Hindutva camp, it is unlikely that they would have adopted terrorist tactics. As is known, the Indian Muslims had taken little interest in the Kashmiri insurgency even if Kashmir was mentioned in the same breath with Palestine, Bosnia and Chechnya by the jehadi groups abroad to enlist recruits.
As the attacks on the churches show, a part of the Parivar's game plan is to exacerbate communal tension and use any retaliatory action by the minorities as a pretext to take the campaign to a more provocative level. The apparent belief is that this is a sure fire way for the BJP to garner votes by consolidating its base of support among the Hindus.
It is obvious that these confrontational tactics of the saffron lobby have succeeded in driving a section of the Muslims towards terrorism. Now, apprehension has been expressed about the Christian youth, too, taking to violence if there is no let-up in the attacks on the churches.

Lonavala to get a regional Rail Museum

Did you know that the first train, which ran on April 16, 1853, between Bori Bunder (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) to Tannah (now Thane), had 14 bogies with 400 passengers and had to be pulled by three engines named Sindh, Sultan and Sahil? For historians, or those interested in heritage artifacts, this could be a known fact. But for the GenNext, railways is planning to bring interesting facts, figures, data, state-of-the-art engines, etc under one roof. Sprawling over 17 acres, running parallel to railway tracks at Lonavala, Central Railway (CR) has proposed a regional rail museum which will be catering to the entire western region.
“This is an ideal position, just atop Borghat, which is one of the difficult ghats to climb. After the location was identified, we floated tenders for international consultants who will be suggesting things we can collect for the museum,” said Rajesh Agrawal, executive director (heritage), Railway Board.Unfortunately, the proposed museum has been stuck in various bureaucratic hurdles since the last decade. CR is also keen on public participation wherein people can contribute photographs and other information which can also be displayed in the museum. Also, contributions from those who have heard stories from their grandparents about the way the railways functioned earlier, are also invited.
“The museum, which will have direct connectivity from Lonavala station, will also have a joy train ride within the premise. Estimated at around Rs11.60 crore, this museum is likely to be commissioned within the next two years,” Agrawal said.

Dharavi rehabilitation caught in a political wrangle

Last week the Maharashtra government decided to provide 300 square feet housing under the Dharavi Redevelopment Project, however all political parties except for the Congress have opposed this move. Their demand is that instead of 300 sq ft the government should provide 400 sq ft housing. In fact the parties observed a black flag day last week and also plan to disrupt railway traffic at Dharavi, in affect bringing the city to a halt.“The government had promised to involve us in consultation yet, the chief minister held a meeting on Friday without even informing us. He issued the 300 sq ft housing comprising of 269 sq ft home with a 131sq ft balcony,” said Raju Korde, member of Dharavi Residents Samanvay Samiti. He added, “People should not forget that the three railway lines - harbour, central and western run along Dharavi and we can bring the city to a halt from here at Dharavi.”The Shiv Sena is among the political parties that are vehemently opposing any move to give houses below 400 sq ft. They say that most residents have shops outside their houses and this concept must exist in the new plans. “We will oppose this project till we get 400 sq ft sanctioned from the government. There are many families living in larger than 300 sq ft houses,” said Suresh Gambhir, Sena legislator from Dharavi. However, residents are of a different view. They refute claims that they own homes more than 300sq ft adding that most residents live in less than 250sq ft homes and are looking forward to a better lifestyle and future after the project. “These politicians will be killed if this project gets further delayed. We are infuriated with these dirty games. Most of us own homes not more 150sq ft, so the demand for a new house, too, should be reasonable. We realise that we need more space for schools, colleges, hospitals, better roads, sewage and drains,” said Gajanan Kale, a Dharavi resident. Meanwhile, Shakat Ali, who runs a pan shop outside his Dharavi home, too, says he can’t wait anymore. “The process began in 2004 and we are yet on the stage of accepting plans. There are vested interests involved and there is no need for protests any more. We are happy with the government’s plans as the project will change the quality of our lives,” said Ali.The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) officials however maintain that the demand for 400 sq ft homes is unreasonable. Currently most of the residential quarters or slums are not more than 125-150 sq ft each. Several residents have made lofts, added extra floor to get extra floor space, which go unnoticed in slums. However these cannot be accommodated in the final plan as the homes are not officially more than 150 sq ft. In addition, the officials say the rehabilitation policy does not permit more than 269 sq ft yet the MHADA took the decision of allotting 300 sq ft with a balcony.“Incremental housing exists in the current scenario in the Dharavi slums, which does get affected in the new development plans. However we have balanced it out and given an extension of a balcony without compromising on the floor space index,” Gautam Chatterjee, vice-president of MHADA told DNA. He added, “We listed 28 occupations which are now conducted inside the slum premises. In the new plans I have ensured that the residents get extra open space and community centres to conduct these professions.”The tussle for power in Dharavi has begun and the battle lines drawn with the Congress promising that the project will take off soon. Congress MP Eknath Gaekwad has accused the Sena leaders of sabotaging the project, “The day after the announcement, MHADA officials had a meeting with the parties concerned and Sena leaders were present. They didn’t boycott the meeting then. The residents must realise the games Sena is playing. They are trying to sabotage an excellent project, which has already been delayed by 12 years,” said Gaekwad. He added, “It is evident none of the other parties want the Congress to take credit for launching this project but I ensure we will not delay the project any more.”Explaining MHADA’s plan, Chatterjee said, “We are creating spaces by innovative planning and designs. Further all decisions have been taken in a consultative process. The dialogue is not over and everyone concerned must come together.”

Festival Snapshotz

India is gearing up for Festival season with Eid, Navratri, Durga Puja, Dussehra, Diwali....

House of Representatives passes the N-Deal

The Indo-US nuclear deal has moved into the last lap clearing a major hurdle when the House of Representatives approved a legislation on it that will now go to the Senate before the two countries can implement the civil nuclear agreement.After a lot of drama and suspense, the House passed the Bill on an unusual extra day of sitting on Saturday with bi-partisan support but a considerable number of Democrats were still opposed to it. The Berman Bill HR 7081, named after Howard Berman, a Democrat strongly opposed to the deal on non-proliferation grounds and who converted only a couple of days ago, was adopted with 298 voting for and 117 against. One lawmaker merely voted present. The deal just needs the backing of the Senate which may vote next week on the issue. But the Senate vote appears to be a formality given the fact that an identical Bill has already been approved by its Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week. Though a Congressional consent eluded the deal when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President George W Bush when they met on Thursday, the House approval came hours before the Prime Minister left the US shores winding up his five-day visit on his way to France. Once the Senate gives its nod, the nuclear agreement between the two countries will be ready for signing between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is slated to visit New Delhi on October 3.The Administration is keen on signing the deal before the end of the term of Bush who had entered into the agreement with Singh more than three years ago that will end three decades of nuclear apartheid against India. National Security Advisor M K Narayanan welcomed the adoption of the deal by the House saying it was a matter of great satisfaction. He expressed the hope that the Bill would get cleared in the Senate sooner than later rather than wait for the next session. Hailing the House action, Indian Ambassador to US Ronen Sen said it would now be the last lap of a historic step for both the countries. The deal enjoyed bi-partisan support and was good for both India and the US. South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson, one of the strongest supporters of the legislation and the agreement, hailed the vote saying it moved the US one step forward in strengthening the partnership with people of India. Despite the US Congress being busy in the midst of clearance of a package for the financial institutions gone bankrupt, the House met unusually on a Saturday for conducting business. The vote on the nuclear Bill was suspended yesterday after another opponent Ed Markey demanded a recorded vote instead of a voice vote after the debate was completed. Berman had originally introduced a Bill that was slightly different from the measure approved by the Senate Committee and adoption of it would have delayed implementation of the nuclear deal. Berman was talked to by Rice after which he withdrew his original Bill and introduced a legislation identical to the Senate Committee that ensured its quick passage. Joe Wilson said he was grateful for the work of President Bush, Prime Minister Singh and Rice for their steadfast support in seeing this agreement implemented. Earlier, the House completed a lively debate that saw Markey putting up a stiff opposition to the deal with India. However in the Senate, an anonymous lawmaker put a "hold" on consideration of the bill which must be lifted before the agreement is brought to the Senate floor or approved by a unanimous consent agreement. The latest hiccup in the Senate is actually a counter to the attempt of the leadership to "hotline" the Senate Bill through unanimous consent without debate and vote. The schedule of the Senate is still fluid but it is meeting tomorrow and re-convening on Wednesday after taking a break on Monday and Tuesday on account of Jewish holidays.

Urban service benchmark

City dwellers have enough reasons to cheer about. The Centre has issued an advisory to all states to follow a service-level benchmark in those cities which have been receiving funds from the Centre or multilateral organisations.The ministry of urban development had earlier prepared a benchmark in four services -- water supply, sewerage, solid waste management and storm water drainage.If the service level benchmark is strictly followed by the city administrations, the quality of life in urban India will improve dramatically. The implementation of the service-level benchmark will make India's city dwellers happy as they have already been suffering from water shortage, inefficient collection of municipal solid wastes, incidence of water logging and inefficient grievance redressal mechanism.Urban development ministry officials said that adhering to these benchmark could be made compulsory only if a state makes a law towards that, or the Centre ties it up as a condition for cities to receive grants or soft loans.According to the newly-formulated benchmark, water supply coverage and metering of water connection must be 100%, with a per capita availability of water at 135 lpcd (litres per capita daily). Also, water supply has to be 24X7. Similarly, there are 10 such indicators in sewerage benchmark itself which includes a 20% re-use of treated water, and 80% efficiency in redressal of customer complaints. The benchmark further insists on no incidence of water logging and 100% coverage of storm water drainage. When contacted, urban development secretary M Ramachandran said that a letter was sent to all chief secretaries in this regard. "At present, it's just an advisory. But it will depend on the people to ensure that a particular city administration is adhering to the benchmark. If any state makes a law regarding it, citizens then could even take legal actions if these benchmarks are not adhered to," he said.

Somewhere in Nagpur.....

It’s a dream-like situation in Baji Prabhu Nagar in Dharampeth zone of Nagpur Municipal Corporation with residents getting round-the-clock water supply.What the people in nearly 170 households in the colony have to do is to turn on the taps and get immediate water. A nice sight to watch.People are very happy to be part of the NMC’s pilot project of providing water round-the-clock. Now, there is no need to store water in sumps on the ground floor which residents of flats often used to do. They are no more required to take water to the third or fourth floor by using a pump. They now get safe and non-polluted drinking water.“We are happy that our locality has been chosen as the model one for 24x7 water supply project by NMC. We thank the civic body for fulfilling our demand for regular water supply,” Radheshyam Samrit, president of Baji Prabhu Nagar Nagrik Mandal and a prominent citizen here said. “Around 170 households in our locality have been receiving non-polluted water supply round-the-clock for the last seven days. Earlier, we had to store water, boil it and then use it for drinking. This problem has now been solved,” Samrit added.Kusum Samrit said, “Now, we use water whenever we need. Otherwise, the taps are closed.” It is after many years that uninterrupted and full pressure water supply has come back to city,” she added. Samrit said, “Residents of Baji Prabhu Nagar opposed the project for many reasons. However, when the company workers started actual work and removed old and rusty pipeline from the area and fitted high quality pipes and meters, everybody supported the project. We are proud to become ambassadors of 24X7 water supply not only for city but in the entire state,” Samrit said.Vandana Mendhe, a housewife, said, “From the day we got uninterrupted water supply we are no more storing it. Though the water supply was stopped for some unknown reasons and caused problem on Tuesday morning, we are happy with NMC’s new project.”Another couple from the area — N V Das and Sujata Das — said, “With the roundthe-clock safe and non-polluted supply, the possibility of water-borne diseases has reduced in the area. Earlier, we had to lift water from the ground floor sump to the tank on the third floor. However, there is no problem now as we get full pressure water supply not only on the third floor (at a height of 45 feet). Water is reaching even above the height of 60 feet. Das said that residents of Ram Nagar, near Baji Prabhu Nagar, had initially opposed the project. However, after getting a positive response from residents here (in Baji Prabhu Nagar), they have decided to approach NMC for implementation of the project in their locality too, he said.
Nagpurians, who are facing severe water crisis and receiving limited and low pressure supply at present, will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to Nagpur Municipal Corporation. The civic body has decided to provide round-the-clock water supply to every household in the city by year 2011. In the first phase of the project, residents of Dharampeth zone where NMC has outsourced water distribution network to Veolia Water (India) Pvt Ltd, will start receiving 24x7 supply by November 2009. “In the second phase, after Baji Prabhu Nagar, we are planning to extend these benefits to residents of Ambazari Layout, Daga Layout and Hill Top by November-end,” informed Rajesh Lohkare, project manager of Veolia.Pipeline installation work is on in full swing and the entire Dharampeth zone area will start getting uninterrupted water supply by November 2009, he added. A five-year pilot project for distribution of water, bill collection, operation and maintenance works has been awarded to the company with an aim to provide round-theclock supply to residents of the zone, he added. Shashikant Hastak, executive engineer of NMC water works department, said, “24x7 scheme improves the quality of water. Presently, pipelines in the city do not have water for better part of the day. Sometimes, this allows sewage water to seep in. This would not be the case under the 24x7 scheme. Further, it would reduce wastage of water and check leakage through rusty pipelines,” he added.“Once the pilot project in Dharampeth zone gets success, we will implement the scheme in the entire city with the funds allocated under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission at a cost of Rs 400 crore by 2011,” Hastak added
Benefits of 24 x 7 Water Supply:
Pipelines remain under controlled pressure round-the-clock and leakage and pipeline breaks are reduced.
Water leakage can be detected easily.
Checks water wastage.
Citizens can use water as and when required.
Every locality gets equal water supply.
Consumers get bills according to consumption .
As pipelines are under controlled pressure, sewage water cannot enter pipes and thus safe drinking water is provided.
It can check diseases like gastro and jaundice spread due to non-polluted water supply